Controversial ban on begging sparks fierce debate in Luxembourg

A ban on begging in Luxembourg City's shopping streets and parks has recently been introduced among protests and backlash.
A ban on begging in Luxembourg City's shopping streets and parks has recently been introduced among protests and backlash. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Giulia Carbonaro
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Critics say Luxembourg City's controversial ban on begging, designed to curb the presence of organised gangs, is neither humane nor legal.


In a controversial move opposed by human rights activists and charity workers, Luxembourg has recently banned begging in the streets of its wealthy capital, Luxembourg City.

The new legislation was formally introduced in the city, where over 114,000 people live, on 15 December 2023 by the newly appointed home affairs minister Léon Gloden. His predecessor Tania Bofferding fiercely opposed it.

It was initially approved by the Luxembourg City Council in March 2023, but Bofferding had prevented the national police from enforcing the ban. It's now been roughly a month since the ban fully came into force on January 15, following a city-wide information campaign.

On its website, the city government writes that the new legislation follows an "increase in panhandling, and in particular, begging by organised gangs and aggressive begging." The ban’s goal is to "safeguard the wellbeing of local residents and visitors and to protect local business activity."

The ban only applies to certain areas of the capital - shopping streets, public squares, car parks and parks - between 7 am and 10 pm. Under the new legislation, beggars found on the streets of Luxembourg City could be ordered to pay a fine of between €25 and €250 or face several days in prison if they cannot pay.

According to Gloden, the ban is targeted at "aggressive organised begging," while the poor and the homeless in the city would still be able to receive support from social services and night shelters. 

But the ban has been met with fierce opposition by charities, human rights advocates and Luxembourg's left-wing parties, who described the new legislation as inhumane and questioned its legality. 

Earlier this month, protesters took to the streets of the city to condemn the move.

Is begging such a big issue in Luxembourg?

Claire, an architect living near Luxembourg City, said that begging has become more noticeable over the past few years, with more people in the streets. "I also noticed, and I don’t think this is limited to the capital, that there’s more organised begging," she told Euronews.

"You'd see people being dropped off in the morning and being picked up in the evening, always the same people in the same corners," she added.

"In the past years there has been a noticeable increase in people living on the streets," Lisa, a Luxembourg retiree, told Euronews. "But I don't believe a begging ban is the answer," she added.

"We should be looking at the root cause of the problems. We have known for years that there is a housing crisis in Luxembourg, yet there doesn’t seem to be political will to deal with creating affordable housing for all," she continued. 

Claire thinks that the ban is "disgusting" and a "band-aid solution" to a deeper issue. "It’s all about face and it’s going to make our problem worse. You’re allowed to be homeless but you’re not allowed to beg on the street," she said. 

"People who are begging are people who lost everything in their lives," Luc, a teacher in Luxembourg, told Euronews. "The discussion should not be about allowing begging or not, but how to concretely help these people," he continued.

Is banning begging legal?

According to over 4,500 Luxembourg residents who signed a petition forcing the country’s parliament to debate the ban, the city's ban isn't legal. The local branch of Amnesty International agrees.

"There is clear jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on the subject matter (of mendicity): in the case of Lacatus v. Switzerland (2021), the Court found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention when imposing sanctions, such as fines, against persons begging in the street," Fernanda Pérez Solla, Director ad interim at Amnesty International Luxembourg, told Euronews.

"The European Court has understood that begging allows for providing for basic needs and that persons in vulnerable situations have a right, inherent in human dignity, to meet those basic needs through begging," she said. "Moreover, the imposition of penalties under such circumstances appeared to be disproportionate."

"If we understand that international human rights law, as interpreted by the European court, does not allow banning mendicity in general, Luxembourg has neither legal rule, for instance, in the criminal code, to forbid it," Pérez Solla said. 


"That is, though municipal councils can adopt police regulations, their content should not contradict human rights law or (the absence of a prohibition in) national law," she added

As things stand, the begging ban remains in a legal limbo. The country's government has promised to go ahead with a series of planned reforms to Luxembourg's Criminal Code which should put an end to the uncertainty surrounding the measure, but until then the ban will continue to be implemented in the capital.

The reforms, according to the government, will not ban begging on a national level - which would be against European law - but will give more room for manoeuvre to municipal authorities.

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